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  • Google is sued in U.S. for tracking users’ ‘private’ internet browsing

    Posted on Nibbled To Death By Ducks Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums Code Red – Security/Privacy advisories Google is sued in U.S. for tracking users’ ‘private’ internet browsing

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      • #2268933 Reply

        By Reuters

        “Google was sued Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing it of illegally invading millions of users’ privacy by tracking their internet use from browsers set in “private” browsing mode.”

        “The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc. unit of illegally collecting information about what people are viewing online and where they are doing their browsing through various applications and website plug-ins, including Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager.”

        https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/google-sued-u-s-tracking-users-private-internet-browsing-n1222676

        Yep, Chrome has great security.

        Really great.

        Drop the browser.

        Now.

        Win7 Pro SP1 64-bit ESU, Dell Latitude E6330, Intel CORE i5 "Ivy Bridge", Group "Patch List", Multiple Air-Gapped backup drives in different locations, "Don't auto-check for updates-Full Manual Mode." Linux Mint Greenhorn
        --
        "A committee is the only known form of life that has at least four legs and no brain."

        -Robert Heinlein

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      • #2268937 Reply
        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        “The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc. unit of illegally collecting information about what people are viewing online and where they are doing their browsing through various applications and website plug-ins, including Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager.”

        As much as I agree with you on your advice to drop Chrome, well… this doesn’t seem to be about Chrome.

        Google Analytics and Ad Manager are javascript applets, hosted on Google servers, and called by the web site in question when a page is loaded, even if you are not using Chrome. If you use an addon like NoScript or uMatrix, you can see these scripts running on lots of sites.  Tons of them. These are the third party trackers that addons like Privacy Badger are meant to thwart. They’re part of the web page, not the browser. Firefox does have tracking protection in its latest versions, but it’s turned to a low level of detection by default in order to avoid breaking a lot of sites.

        Chrome may assist in the tracking and collection of data, but it’s not necessary for that tracking to take place.  If Google can convince you to sign in to Google in the browser, that really makes it easy for the various tracking scripts to follow you around the web.  They’ve experimented with not bothering to try to convince you to sign in, like when news stories appeared to the effect that signing in to any Google web site in Chrome also signed you in to that Google account in Chrome… and if you attempted to clear all cookies in Chrome to stop further tracking, Chrome would do so, then instantly recreate the Google cookies, the worst ones to keep if you’re trying to stop tracking, in a rather obvious attempt to live up to the technical definition of “clear the cookies” while deliberately thwarting the intent of doing so.

        As far as I know, they backed that out when they were called out on it.  Google is IMO quite clearly doing the same as Microsoft, seeing what people will tolerate, pushing the boundaries, looking for that weak spot in the electric fence.

        Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.3).

        7 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2269049 Reply
        MrJimPhelps
        AskWoody_MVP

        My first choice of browsers is Firefox, with NoScript installed. I disallow all scripts running from any Google site, except for Google Maps. Browsing to just about any web site (including my bank) and clicking the NoScript button shows that Google scripts are quietly and invisibly running in the background of just about every site you visit.

        Notably, you won’t find Google scripts running when you browse to any Microsoft site; and you won’t find Microsoft scripts running on any websites but their own. (Actually, I have occasionally found scripts running from office.com running on a non-Microsoft site; but that’s the only one.)

        I have come to the conclusion that Google is literally spying on everyone who touches the web – they are essentially looking over your shoulder and taking notes at all times when you are surfing the web. Therefore, I hope that the plaintiffs win this lawsuit.

        Google should have been shut down a long time ago, but my guess as to why they have not been shut down is because they have dirt on pretty much everybody .

        Moderator note: Edit for content

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        with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
      • #2269053 Reply
        Alex5723
        AskWoody Plus

        Therefore, I hope that the plaintiffs win this lawsuit.

        This has nothing to do with normal usage of Chrome/Google Script.
        The lawsuit is about tracking users when in Incognito Mode, Which Google denies.

        3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2269061 Reply
        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        Ascaris ( #2268937 ) states: “Chrome may assist in the tracking and collection of data, but it’s not necessary for that tracking to take place. If Google can convince you to sign in to Google in the browser, that really makes it easy for the various tracking scripts to follow you around the web.

        If I read the above correctly, this refers to someone signing in to his or her Google account. I do not have a Google account. I use Google to do searches, nothing more — with my ad blocker on permanently whatever I am browsing on, except for a few whitelisted sites. But my bank insists that I use either IE or Chrome for my online banking. No IE on my Mac, the laptop that is my current workhorse, just Chrome and Waterfox (my default browser), with Safari and FF in standby, so I have to use Chrome when doing online banking. But, according to Alex5723, using Chrome has nothing to do with this spying issue.

        I hope this gets further clarified here, confirming or not the preceding statement.

        Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS + Linux (Mint)

        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by OscarCP.
        • #2269085 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          Signing in to a Google account makes it easier for them to track you (it creates a persistent ID over time), but anytime you visit a Google site, or a site that has a Google tracker embedded (if you allow third party cookies), you’re still going to be tracked if you don’t take measures to limit it.  Lots and lots of sites have Google ad services, and those come with trackers.  Disallowing third-party cookies stops a lot of that, though there have been exploits by web advertisers (no idea if Google itself ever did this) that make third-party cookies appear as first-party, bypassing the third-party cookie rules.  It’s best to not let the scripts run at all, and to frequently remove all of the Google cookies.  If you can, change your IP address from time to time also.  Many ISPs use dynamic IP addresses, so it can be as simple as going to the router settings and hit “disconnect,” then letting it reconnect (or making it reconnect, if it does not do it automatically).

          There are other ways of establishing a persistent ID, of course, and that’s not what this thread is about, but I have not read about Google using them, and they have a lot of eyes on them, so the odds of them keeping anything like that a secret for long are limited.

          I wouldn’t use Google itself to search. Startpage.com uses Google search, but it removes the tracking in the process.  In doing so, it gives you the “real” Google results by relevance, without changing the results according to what Google knows about you.  I usually use DDG as my first try, and if that fails to get what I want, there’s Startpage.  I haven’t used Google proper in a long time.

          We’ve talked about bank shenanigans with useragents before… if a site demands I use Chrome, I give them “Chrome,” or at least that’s what the useragent string will say.  The actual browser will still be Waterfox, but that’s none of their business. If what they are looking for is a Chrome useragent string, I certainly can oblige.

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.3).

          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2269084 Reply
        Fred
        AskWoody Plus

        Ascaris ( #2268937 ) states: “Chrome may assist in the tracking and collection of data, but it’s not necessary for that tracking to take place. If Google can convince you to sign in to Google in the browser, that really makes it easy for the various tracking scripts to follow you around the web.

        If I read the above correctly, this refers to someone signing in to his or her Google account. I do not have a Google account. I use Google to do searches, nothing more — with my ad blocker on permanently whatever I am browsing on, except for a few whitelisted sites. But my bank insists that I use either IE or Chrome for my online banking. No IE on my Mac, the laptop that is my current workhorse, just Chrome and Waterfox (my default browser), with Safari and FF in standby, so I have to use Chrome when doing online banking. But, according to Alex5723, using Chrome has nothing to do with this spying issue.

        I hope this gets further clarified here, confirming or not the preceding statement.

        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by OscarCP.

        might be interesting to follow the European security firms, and their findings for the GDPR, DSVGO, AVG etc for government and personal privacy in data. The data-hunger exists and will be exploited. For instance the matter of Cambridge Analytica a few years back, and what is there to come?

        Black Lives Matter
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      • #2269097 Reply
        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        Ascaris ( #2269085 ): “We’ve talked about bank shenanigans with useragents before… if a site demands I use Chrome, I give them “Chrome,” or at least that’s what the useragent string will say.  The actual browser will still be Waterfox, but that’s none of their business. If what they are looking for is a Chrome useragent string, I certainly can oblige.

        This was discussed some time ago. It might be helpful, and not just to me, if you could include a link to that particular part of the corresponding thread where how to do it is explained. Thanks.

        As to the consequences of using Google to do searches: I have read many times that Google will spy on anyone using its search engine to post ads targeted to the tracked user (perhaps among other things.) Interestingly, only once, long ago, this happen to me: as part of my work, I was (and still am) doing quite a bit involving GPS and for this I have been making lots of searches for information and publications using Google. Then I started to see ads for GPS receivers and software. That was targeted, alright. But, then again, it was years ago: since then, nothing advertised in some form or another in the results of a search has had to do with me in the slightest. The ads (links marked as ‘Ad’) and other inclusions, for example pictures “related to…” and Wikipedia articles, have been all relevant only to the topic of my search and not to some preference of mine gleaned from my previous searches.

        Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS + Linux (Mint)

        • #2269202 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          This was discussed some time ago. It might be helpful, and not just to me, if you could include a link to that particular part of the corresponding thread where how to do it is explained. Thanks.

          I did a quick search and could not find it, so I made a new post just now that describes the process in Firefox and Waterfox.

          The ads (links marked as ‘Ad’) and other inclusions, for example pictures “related to…” and Wikipedia articles, have been all relevant only to the topic of my search and not to some preference of mine gleaned from my previous searches.

          That’s a good sign, but why even allow Google the chance to set cookies to track you and match you to that search when there’s a stealthier way to get Google results?

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.3).

          1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2269207 Reply
        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        Ascaris: “…but why even allow Google the chance to set cookies to track you and match you to that search when there’s a stealthier way to get Google results?

        I agree with you. I was merely making a summation of my own personal experience.

        And thanks for the link.

        Windows 7 Professional, SP1, x64 Group W (ex B) & macOS + Linux (Mint)

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